Beef olives
1732 recipe
Alternative namesVeal olives; veal birds
TypeMeat casserole
Place of originEngland
Main ingredientsBeef or veal strips wrapped around stuffing

Beef olives are an English meat dish consisting of slices of beef rolled and tied round a stuffing and braised in stock. Veal is sometimes used instead of beef, but the latter has been more common since the 18th century. Similar dishes are familiar in cuisines of other countries including France, Italy, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

History and etymology

The word "olives" in the name of the dish is a corruption of "aloes" or "allowes", from the Old French alou, meaning lark.[1] It was held that the small stuffed beef (or veal) rolls resembled little birds, particularly those whose heads had been cut off in being prepared for the table. In The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson observes that although the standard French term for similar beef rolls is paupiettes they have an alternative name – alouettes sans tête ("larks without heads").[2] Likewise, an alternative English name is "veal birds".[2]

In English usage the term beef (or veal) olives dates back to at least the 16th century. John Florio in his A Worlde of Wordes (1598) refers to "That meate which we call oliues of veale".[3] By the 18th century, beef was more commonly used than veal. Elizabeth Raffald in The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769) gives a recipe for the beef version, as in the 19th century does Mrs Beeton (1861).[3]

Davidson comments that similar rolled and stuffed beef (or veal) dishes are found in the cookery of Germany (Rouladen),[2] Poland (zrazy),[2] and the Czech Republic (ptachky);[2] in Italy, there are several names for versions of the dish, including involtini,[2] braciola[4] and pasteli.[3]


Elizabeth David remarks of the French paupiettes that every cook has a different recipe for them.[5] Recipes vary likewise for the English equivalent:

Cook/writer Beef Stuffing Liquid Ref
Mrs Beeton Rump, wrapped in bacon Minced herbs Beef and veal stock [6]
Mary Berry Silverside or topside Onions, bacon, mushrooms Beef stock and tomato purée [7]
Robert Carrier Topside Onions, mushrooms, breadcrumbs Beef stock [8]
Ceserani and Kinton Lean beef Onions, breadcrumbs Brown stock [9]
Keith Floyd Stewing beef Minced pork Red wine [10]
Prue Leith Lean beef Onions, sausage meat Beef stock and tomato purée [11]
Richard Olney Rump or round Chopped pork, chopped hard-boiled eggs unspecified [12]
Elizabeth Raffald Rump Breadcrumbs, bone marrow, lemon "a Pint of Gravy" [13]
Gary Rhodes Topside or rump Minced chicken, onions, mushrooms Red wine and veal stock [14]
Katie Stewart Rump Mushrooms, breadcrumbs Stock (unspecified) [15]


  1. ^ Ayto, p. 26
  2. ^ a b c d e f Davidson, p. 69
  3. ^ a b c "beef olive". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  4. ^ Carluccio, p. 106
  5. ^ David, p. 351
  6. ^ Beeton, p. 56
  7. ^ Berry, pp. 34–35
  8. ^ Carrier, p. 127
  9. ^ Ceserani and Kinton, pp. 171–172
  10. ^ Floyd, p. 103
  11. ^ Leith, p. 157
  12. ^ Olney, p. 94
  13. ^ Raffald, pp. 104–105
  14. ^ Rhodes, p. 124
  15. ^ Stewart, p. 68